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Synopsis: Optimizing Team Performance At Google

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Synopsis: Optimizing Team Performance at Google

Google has quickly become known as one of the best places in the world to work at. Its organization does not follow along with industry standards. When I first read the case study, I was in ahh on how focused they are on providing the ultimate space to optimize production. In the Case Study, we go over the depths to which Google has gone to ensure their teams are performing at the highest level. In 2012 Google had an idea of trying to figure out why some work groups or teams were more successful than others. What work traits, or characteristics made some groups more successful than others. Google started a program called Project Aristotle, where they dissected every waking moment of 180 teams. What they learned is that there wasn’t a set characteristic or trait that set these groups apart.

Google had analyzed every aspect from these groups, from age, race, gender experience and personality types. Whatever they did they could not come up with conclusive data on why certain groups were successful while others lagged behind. The data showed it wasn’t so much the people who made the difference, but “norms” or the unwritten rules, that everyone followed. So that’s when the Project Aristotle team changed their focus onto these norms. Two norms stood out from most of the successful teams, allowing members to speak in the same proportion and having an ability to sense other team members emotions.

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The conclusion of Project Aristotle was that these teams that functioned the best at high levels allowed all of its members to have equal input. The idea that everyone has a voice, and that they became sensitive to each other’s opinions allowed for much more open communication and in turn more successful output.

Problem 1

The first problem is that when Project Aristotle started its research it already had an idea of what it expected for an outcome. So when they dedicated millions of dollars, and thousands of work hours, they ended up not really finding anything out because all of their preconceived notions were wrong. They were left scratching their head and had to go back to the data and try to reprocess it with an open mind.

Cause of the Problem

The cause of the problem was the fact that they were set on the idea that the successful teams were successful solely on common traits only. They quickly learned that the “who” didn’t matter when they looked further and found that some individuals with strong traits succeeded in some situations, but not others even matched with people of like traits.

Recommendation 1

I think that I would have ensured that the Project Aristotle staff would have to go in with an open mind. I would have them become involved in some of the group situations, and take a more hands on approach. There could have also been further surveys taken of both successful and unsuccessful groups as to what they liked and didn’t like about the group. Make these surveys open answer, and then organize them by keywords. This would have brought to light the “unwritten rules” much sooner.

Problem 2

The second problem they faced was the fact that they were sure that there was a distinguishable pattern for successful groups, and they figured less successful groups wouldn’t have these patterns or traits. What they found was, that the traits really didn’t matter.

Cause of the Problem

Again, the problem came back to them assuming or having an idea of what the figured the results would be. They figured that teams with the best individuals, or a specific trait would stand out. They tried everything, like putting like traits together, friends together, people with the same interests, and they got no real data that showed that would work. In fact, some of the same people were put together on different projects with significantly different results.

Recommendation 2

Again, if Project Aristotle had been more hands on or actually involved in these teams, they would have noticed these “norm” are the things that glued the successful teams together. These norms allowed for open and effective communication, and, thus, a better end product.

Problem 3

Finally, Project Aristotle had put their finger on these norms, and could identify which ones were good and bad. Now they must figure out how to implement these so called norms on future projects. They had essentially spent millions of dollars to learn that communication really is key.

Cause of the Problem

The researchers were really focused on personality or actual physical traits for the answers. They never thought that the way people communicate would be the key to it all.

Recommendation 3

Google provides one of the best work environments in the world, there really isn’t allot you could really improve on. I think I would continue processing the data from Project Aristotle to see what other things could be learned. I would look at putting in some sort of system to make people continue to network within and outside of the company. I would also, encourage, public speaking classes, communication classes, and debate. I think learning that communication is so valuable to our employees, I think by encouraging them to become better speakers will allow them to speak more freely, and express their point of view when it’s their turn to talk.

Works Cited:

1. Duhigg, Charles. “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2016,

2. Kinicki, Angelo, and Mel Fugate. Organizational Behavior: a Practical, Problem-Solving Approach (with Connect Access). 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.


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